The USS Laffey (DD-724) served in the U.S. Navy for over three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Bartlett Laffey who served during the Civil War. Laffey was laid down as an Allen M. Sumner class destroyer.
Laffey was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in June 1943, launched in November, and commissioned in February 1944 with Commander F. J. Beston in command. Carrying a crew of 336, Laffey was armed with six five-inch anti-aircraft guns, twelve 40-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, eleven 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Laffey conducted school ship operations at Norfolk, Virginia and escorted convoys prior to the Normandy invasion. The destroyer conducted shore bombardment and screening operations on D-Day and then was overhauled at Boston in July. Arriving at Norfolk in August, Laffey was then deployed to Hawaii and underwent training at Pearl Harbor in August before leaving for the Philippines in November.
Laffey served in Leyte Gulf, Mindoro, and Lingayen Gulf in December 1944 and January 1945 and then participated in the Okinawa invasion in March. During this deployment, an attack by a kamikaze plan killed 32 crew members. Laffey was repaired at Seattle, Washington from May to September, and then sailed for San Deigo, where she collided with PC-815. Repairs were followed by deployment to Bikini Atoll during atomic tests in May 1946.
Laffey was decommissioned with the Pacific Reserve fleet from June 1947 until January 1951, where she operated briefly along the east coast before serving during the Korean War. She resumed fleet exercises in the Atlantic in 1955 before sailing to the Mediterranean for the Suez crisis in 1956. Laffey then served along the east coast with regular deployments to the Mediterranean over the next few years, and then became a service ship for the Norfolk Test and Evaluation Detachment in February 1963.
In the summer, Laffey conducted anti-submarine exercises and then sailed to the Mediterranean on a surveillance mission to observe Soviet naval forces in the summer. Atlantic and Caribbean exercises followed until Laffey was struck from the Navy list in March 1975, when she was preserved as a memorial at Charleston, South Carolina.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Laffey (DD-724)
Most of the crew sailing or performing repair work on the USS Laffey were most likely exposed to asbestos fibers to a certain extent while on the ship, but some sailors suffered from a larger risk of asbestos contamination. Those laboring in the engine room, as machinists, dealing with fire suppression, or dealing with battle damage (as in the wake of the kamikaze strike on Laffey) were considerably more likely to come into contact with asbestos-containing materials. Large amounts of asbestos dust surrounded those working on ship repairs, especially when maintaining equipment which contained large amounts of asbestos.
Shipyard jobs also presented an exposure risk. If loose fibers from this fireproofing material are inhaled into the lungs, the mesothelial tissues can become damaged and mesothelioma can begin to form. Mesothelioma, a form of asbestos cancer, can be associated with a very short life expectancy if not diagnosed at an early stage. Besides pleural mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos can cause other diseases including lung cancer and asbestosis.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-724.
(http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd724txt.htm) Retrieved 10 February 2011.
NavSource Naval History. USS Laffey (DD-724).
(http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/724.htm) Retrieved 10 February 2011.